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Sunday's Syria (and Beyond) Live Coverage: After the Houla "Massacre", Another 60 Deaths
2130 GMT: Egypt. Protests have reportedly spread to the headquarters of Presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq, which has been set on fire:
2020 GMT: Egypt. A protest tonight in Tahrir Square in Cairo, chanting against Ahmed Shafik, Presidential candidate and former Vice President in the Mubarak Regime, and the Muslim Brotherhood:
The Observatory claimed at least 21 Syrian troops were slain, as well as five civilians, three insurgents, and a member of the pro-regime shabiha plainclothes militia.
The activists also claimed regime forces were deployed in large numbers on the outskirts of Houla, where at least 108 civilians were killed on Friday.
1400 GMT: Egypt. The Electoral Commission, announcing the official result of the first round of the Presidential vote, has rejected all appeals against the ballot.
The Commission said the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi led with 5.76 million votes. He has been joined in the run-off by Ahmed Shafiq, the last Vice President of the Mubarak regime, who had 5.5 million votes. Nasserite socialist Hamdeen Sabahi was third with 4.82 million, while former Brotherhood member Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh had 4.56 million.
Turnout was 46.4%.
1315 GMT: Syria. Back from an academic break to find that United Nations envoy Kofi Annan has arrived in Damascus for "serious and frank discussions" with President Assad on Tuesday. He told journalists:
I urge the government to take bold steps to signal that it is serious in its intention to resolve this crisis peacefully,and for everyone involved to help create the right context for a credible political process....The six point plan has to be implemented comprehensively, and this is not happening."
Annan, moving beyond blame solely on the regime, added, "This message of peace is not only for the government, but for everyone with a gun".
As for the killings on Houla on Friday, Annan said, "[This is] an appalling crime, and the (U.N.) Security Council has rightly condemned it."
1015 GMT: Syria. Speaking at a joint news conference with visiting British Foreign Secretary William Hague, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has blamed both the regime and opposition for Friday's killings in Houla.
"We are dealing with a situation in which both sides evidently had a hand in the deaths of innocent people," Lavrov said
Lavrov claimed he and Hague agreed both the government and its foes must be pressured to end violence, adding criticism of nations who called for President Assad to step down as part of a political resolution.
Hague said Russia and Britain agreed United Nations envoy Kofi Annan's peace plan was "at the moment the only hope" for resolving Syria's crisis.
Claimed footage of regime shelling of the Khalidiya section of Homs today:
Agence France-Presse (AFP) quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson, Liu Weimin, as saying that China strongly condemns Houla massacre, calling for immediate investigation into this incident and to uncover its perpetrators.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast condemned the terrorist acts in Houla village, in Syria, which claimed the lives of a number of innocent civilians, asserting that these acts aim at creating chaos and instability in Syria as their perpetrators seek to prevent any peaceful solutions.
In a statement, Mehmanparast expressed condemnation of this act, asserting the necessity of uncovering those who committed it and holding them accountable.
He expressed confidence that the foreign interference and terrorist acts which target the Syrian people are doomed to failure.
He expressed support to the Syrian people and the reform process launched by President Bashar al-Assad, warning against the attempts to foil the plan of the UN Envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan. "These attempts will lead for no result," he said.
Ahmed Shafiq said he never regretted calling former President Hosni Mubarak “a role model.”
At the lunch of elite businessmen held this month by the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, an umbrella group for multinationals and those who work with them, the crowd erupted in applause.
It was a vivid demonstration of the unexpected surge of support that Mr. Shafiq, a former air force general and Mr. Mubarak’s last prime minister, hopes will help him win a mid-June presidential runoff against Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood. A victory would make him Egypt’s first freely elected president, setting the template for the country’s post-Mubarak future....
The well-heeled audience cheered as Mr. Shafik suggested that he would use executions and brutal force to restore order within a month, repeatedly mocked the Islamist-led Parliament and accused, against all evidence, the Islamists of harboring hidden militias to use in a civil war.
Another telling quote from Shafiq: "The Egyptian people, contrary to the accusations, are obedient."
The Council said the "outrageous use of force" against civilians violated international law and the commitments of the Assad regime to cease violence in populated areas. It called on President Assad's forces to withdraw heavy weapons from towns and cities.
Despite the criticisms, the Council's statement was significantly limited. It is "non-binding", so does not mandate any steps by UN members. And the wording was much weaker than that in an original draft: it did not directly blame the regime for the shelling. Nor did it criticise the apparent assault by plainclothes "shabiha", which caused most of the casualties.
While the British Ambassador spoke of the "atrocity", Russia's Deputy Ambassador said before the meeting:
It still remains unclear what happened and what triggered what. There are substantial grounds to believe that the majority of those who were killed were either slashed, cut by knives, or executed at point blank distance. It is difficult to imagine that the Syrian government would not only shell... but also use point-black execution [against women and children].
The Syrian representative, Bashar Ja'afari, reiterated the regime's line that the killings were carried out "armed terrorist groups", as he dismissed the "tsunami of lies" of other delegations.
Meanwhile, as the discussions played out in New York, events in Syria were marked by another regime assault, this time on Hama. After insurgents attacked army checkpoints inside the city, Assad's military used heavy weapons on the area, killing at least 25 people.
Activists claimed this morning that at least 41 had perished in the assault.